Who will step up for a chance to represent Tamahere on the Waikato District Council in the upcoming local body elections?
Three-term Tamahere ward councillor Wally Hayes has left the field wide open after announcing an all or nothing bid for the district’s mayoralty in the October elections.
Aspiring candidates for the ward role have from July 15 when nominations open until August 12 to get their nominations in. But what does being a councillor involve?
The first opportunity to find out more about standing and what’s involved if elected will be a candidate information evening at the Waikato District Council offices, 15 Galileo Street, Ngaruawahia, at 6pm on Tuesday, July 19.
A wealth of information and commonly asked questions is available here on the Vote Waikato website.
Local government members should be leaders who are in tune with their communities, says Local Government NZ (LGNZ), the sector’s umbrella group.
“A democracy only succeeds if people who care for the community are prepared to give it a go, do their bit and have a say,” it continues in an online guide for election candidates.
“Our members need vision and commitment to help them make our communities better places in which to live.
“Successful local election candidates are those that take the time to listen to their communities, engage with the people within them and go on to champion their voice as their representative.”
When outgoing Tamahere ward councillor Wally Hayes, now mayoral candidate, first became a councillor in 2007 he was green, he readily admits. Nine years later what is his advice to those contemplating following in his footsteps?
“I am pleased I took it on,” he told Tamahere Forum. “I’ve learnt a helluva lot. I was green. I was asked to run several times and turned it down twice. I’ve no regrets that I finally said yes.”
In its guide for candidates, LGNZ says the job of a councillor can “at times, be very demanding” and Hayes agrees.
“You will have to balance a number of competing interests and wear a number of hats, as councillors can be required to act simultaneously as community leaders, representatives and community board members,” LGNZ says.
“The role and responsibilities of a councillor fall into two main categories:
• being a member of the governing body of the council; and
• being an elected representative of the community.
“For the three year term councillors need to juggle work, the community’s demands, their own priorities, the policies of their political team (if they have one) and the challenges facing their council. Being a councillor is a very public role. Whenever councillors appear in public, even though it may not be in an official capacity, they are usually regarded as a councillor and judged accordingly. It is not a nine to five job.”
Says Hayes: “You’ve got to have the time. I was lucky I’d been successful in business and that I put the homework in. There’s a lot of homework – not just reading agendas. Be prepared to do a lot of reading.
“It wasn’t easy. It was a steep learning curve to learn how council runs.”
To be a good ward representative you have to connect with people, said Hayes who has gathered a group of mentors around him both in Tamahere and throughout the district to help keep in touch with local concerns.
“One of the ways I connected with people was to set up the Tamahere Community Committee, which had disbanded when I got elected. I got it going again and over the years there have been a dozen or more members that I’ve worked closely with.”
Two for one?
Do you need a partner and is it necessary for a partner to be involved? Tamahere Forum asked Hayes.
“I’ve done it without a partner but had strong family support,” he said.
Sometimes newby councillors are advised to keep their mouths shut and ears open for their first year or even term but Hayes is not a fan.
“If you feel strongly about something speak up. But [bear in mind] there’s a lot to take in,” he said. “Take your time, watch and learn but if you feel strongly then make your point.”
His summary of the skills needed for the job is life experience in business, people skills or customer service and to be prepared to be public property.
“You can put as much into it as you think important. It’s not a fulltime job but it’s not part time, either. It’s in between. You get out of it what you put in.”
The Remuneration Authority sets the pay for local body councillors. There is a base rate calculated on the size of the councillor’s ward. Additional payments are added if the councillor has additional responsibilities such as chairing a council committee or has other extra duties.
In 2014-15, the base rate for Waikato district councillors was around $36,000. Committee chairs received around $45,000, the deputy mayor around $60,000 and the mayor $121,000.
Nominations open for the 2016 local body elections on July 15. Candidates must be a New Zealand citizen and their name must be on the Parliamentary Electoral Roll (anywhere in New Zealand).
Two people are required to nominate the candidate. They need to be electors who are registered in the ward though the candidate does not need to reside in the area.
The election is by postal vote and papers will be in the mail to electors from September 16 to 21. Election day is October 8.
The Vote Waikato website has a wealth of information for voters, too, including on getting on or ensuring you are on the electoral role.